Satawu ruling 'disappointing' : FXI
A Constitutional Court ruling holding trade union Satawu liable for a riot damage claim was disappointing, the Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI) said on Thursday.
"The FXI is disappointed by the judgement of the Constitutional Court yesterday [Wednesday] dismissing the appeal made by the SA Transport and Allied Workers Union," it said in a statement.
"[However] the FXI is encouraged that the judgment recognises the importance of the right to assemble, by stating that the right to freedom of assembly is central to our democracy."
It said the FXI would remain committed to "advancing the right to freedom of expression and always advocate that the right to freedom of assembly is exercised peacefully".
The court ruled on Wednesday that Satawu was responsible for damages caused during a march by security guards in Cape Town, in May 2006.
It found the Regulation of Gatherings Act afforded victims effective recourse when a gathering became destructive and resulted in injury, loss of property, or life.
"The organisations are intimately involved in the planning, supervision, and execution of the gathering, but the potential victims are not," Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng said in the ruling.
"Because of this, the organisations would be in a better position than innocent victims to identify individuals or institutions which caused the damage."
He said the union had the opportunity of a "soft landing" if it could track down those responsible for the damage caused during the protest and recoup its loss from them.
The union appealed twice against the decision and was turned down on both occasions.
The ruling was welcomed by Business Unity SA on Wednesday.
"This provides legal certainty to business in cases where public gatherings become destructive and result in injury, loss of property or life," it said in a statement.
The ruling was also hailed by Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille.
"While we respect the right of any organisation to organise legal strike action and to assemble, [but] these rights must be balanced against the rights of ordinary citizens, who should not be unduly prejudiced by the exercise of this right."
The Democratic Alliance called the ruling a "massive victory".
"For too long, Cosatu (the Congress of SA Trade Unions) and its affiliates have been allowed to engage in violent and chaotic strikes without any repercussions," DA MP Ian Ollis said in a statement.